Bills to bolster education plans for students with disabilities teed up for Session

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This article was published on Florida Politics by Renzo Downey on February 22, 2021.

Bills designed to help students with disabilities plot out their continuing education after they graduate high school are ready to move through the House and Senate.

Sen. Annette Taddeo and Rep. Allison Tant‘s legislation (SB 726/HB 173) have now both been assigned to committees ahead of the 2021 Session, which begins next week.

The Democrats’ bills would revise how the state develops individual education plans (IEPs) by reaching out to parents about those plans when the student reaches 7th grade. Currently, IEP teams contact parents when students turn 14 years old.

Tant, of Tallahassee, credits her developmentally delayed son’s school district’s transition program with helping him secure a job. But many parents aren’t aware of the programs schools have to offer students with disabilities, she said.

“Parents are not aware of the transformational work that school districts and the Department of Education are doing to put students with disabilities on a path to self-sufficiency and meaningful work,” Tant added.

Currently, IEPs should be ready when students with disabilities turn 16. But under Taddeo and Tant’s proposal, the plans should be in place by the time students reach high school.

The new plan would provide students with a plan of action for job training and developing living skills. The goal is to set students up with a career plan, including an education plan from ages 18 to 22.

“Things are already tough enough for parents of students with disabilities,” Taddeo, of Miami, said. “This bill ensures school resources are readily available by providing a space for parents and educators to sit with their students and plan for their future, which is integral to their success and their contributions to society.”

In addition to the planning and notice requirements of the bill, the proposal authorizes the Department of Education to audit current programs around the state to suggest best practices for Transition programs.

If approved, the measure would take effect in July.